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A win-win for health – Tobacco Tax increase raises revenue and reduces smoking

March 13, 2013
To: Chairman Hadley and members of the Revenue Committee
From: Courtnay VanDeVelde, Policy Associate
Re: Support for LB 439 – Change cigarette and tobacco tax provisions.

In the last few years, states have taken steps to reduce the population of tobacco users by increasing the excise taxes on tobacco products. LB 439 is one way for Nebraska to reduce the rate of children who begin smoking and Voices for Children supports this proposal.

According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 15% of teens reported that they currently smoke, 38.7% have tried smoking, and 6.4% currently use smokeless tobacco.[1] Although these percentages have decreased since the 2005 survey, Nebraska still needs to develop incentives to continue to keep healthy youth.

One solution, suggested in this legislation, is to raise excise taxes on tobacco products, as it can act as a stimulus to encourage current users to quit and deter non-users from beginning to use tobacco products.[2] The U.S. Surgeon General has reported this as an effective policy intervention to prevent smoking initiation among adolescents and young adults, reduce cigarette consumption, and increase the number of smokers who quit.[3]

LB 439 is also a good investment for children and families as it will provide additional revenue to help build a stronger state for future generations.   The Health Care Cash Fund helps to support children’s health services.  The bill would also provide for much needed additional revenue in the state’s General Fund.  The General Fund has had a deficit (OPEN SKY) and this has resulted in cuts to programs serving children.  Additional revenue could increase Nebraska’s ability to make smart investments in children’s health, education and well-being.  We urge the committee to advance this bill.  Thank you.

[1] “Youth Online-High School YRBS Nebraska 2011 Results,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov.

[2]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: State Excise Tax Fact Sheet 2012.

[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health 2010.

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